Making Math Visible

George Hart and Elisabeth Heathfield

Our Mission.   Just as exposure to great books can entice students to learn to read, beautiful mathematical objects may fuel students' desire to investigate topics in mathematics and give them an opportunity to acquire a positive lifetime perspective towards math.  Traditional classroom walls are often overflowing with language-based displays of learning, while the beauty of math is rarely seen.

We believe that creative hands-on activities can informally introduce students to mathematical thinking and get them excited about math. Young people have an inherent curiosity and a willingness to explore that is characteristic of professional mathematicians. Our workshops can foster this natural tendency and show students that “math is cool!” Our goal is to make math visible and accessible by constructing visually engaging, publicly displayed objects that provide a tangible platform for discussion and inquiry.

In the workshops we lead, students, instructors, and other participants become co-learners and co-creators of design-based projects that excite and engage them. We are very interested in the idea of breaking barriers between formal and informal education using interest-driven activities that connect to school learning and foster a math culture in and around the school.

Our workshops have a focus on hands-on building in which participants create a physical structure that can be looked at as an artwork and/or used as a teaching tool. We provide free lesson plans because we want to empower teachers by offering easily accessible resources with strong curricular connections and giving them the tools and the confidence to incorporate hands-on learning into their own math classes.  Many of the activities touch on aspects of math beyond the textbook, such as 3D geometry, topology, graph theory, problem solving, spatial reasoning, proportional thinking, etc.

You can read more about Making Math Visible in this paper, presented at the 2017 Bridges Conference in Waterloo, Ontario.  And here is a video of a talk we gave about this project at St. Jerome's University at the University of Waterloo, Ontario, February 3 2017.

Note: All MakingMathVisible content is copyrighted by George Hart and Elisabeth Heathfield.  We freely give teachers, schools, museums, and homeschoolers permission to use this material in any educational context, but written permission is needed before selling any products or services based on our designs.